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Summary:

Open Source software might not be as visible in the telecom world, but its impact is slowly but surely being felt. A series of projects are tackling complicated products such as high-end switches, while others are cooking up DNS, Firewall and VPN gear. In fact start-ups […]

Open Source software might not be as visible in the telecom world, but its impact is slowly but surely being felt. A series of projects are tackling complicated products such as high-end switches, while others are cooking up DNS, Firewall and VPN gear. In fact start-ups such as Vyatta and Digium have based their entire business model on open source software. Add another name to the movement investing in open platforms.

Meraki Networks, a Mountain View, Calif.-based startup is building a business off of hardware and software based on MIT’s Roofnet project. The Roofnet Project was previously funded by MIT’s Project Oxygen and NTT DoCoMo. Meraki also consults on mesh-networking related issues for the fabled $100 laptop prototype project. The first offering from the company will likely hit the shelves this fall, and is called the Meraki Mini, which is a $49 wireless 802.11b/g router that allows users to build a wireless mesh network or extend the range of a municipal network.


Sanjit Biswas, the company’s co-founder, and MIT student on-leave, hopes the low-cost hardware will cause a wave in the mesh networking industry, and the company is working on beta-testing this summer. The hardware uses an open platform and the company is encouraging users to tinker around and install their own software. Though, Biswas says the router isn’t completely open source and part of the software is closed.

Biswas says that Meraki’s goal is to enable a grassroots movement of small wireless ISPs by providing them everything they need to get started. “Hardware (the Meraki Mini) is part of the story, but we also have the mature mesh routing software and hosted billing/user management tools operators will need to run a production network. We let the operators set the pricing and also brand their service.” What if software from Meraki ends up in a FON router? That could open up some interesting possibilities.

Still, Meraki might be one of those startups that is in the right place at the right time. As more cities and companies show interest in muni wireless, wireless networks with open platforms are starting to gain traction. Earlier this month we covered Sascha Meinrath’s NSF grant for his open source wireless mesh project. Earlier this week the Mayor of Boston unveiled plans to bring low-cost metro WiFi access through a non-profit foundation.

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  1. Aww, that hardware is so cute. I wonder what the throughput is like.

  2. Sascha Meinrath Wednesday, August 2, 2006

    It should be noted that CUWiN and Meraki have actually been working together for quite some time and have been continuing our collaboration with their current hardware platform. CUWiN uses some of the technologies MIT roofnet first developed and is porting our software to the Meraki Minis as we speak. Our goal is really to tie together “best of breed” technologies from around the globe to create low-cost turn-key wireless solutions. And we’ve been building a coalition of groups who are working on different facets of this problem spanning 5 continents and about a dozen projects. The goal is to enhance coordination among key groups, open lines of communication among developers, and create interoperable Open Source, Open Architecture, Open Spectrum technologies.

    Stay tuned…

  3. Jesse Kopelman Wednesday, August 2, 2006

    This is a very big deal. I’ve been expecting something like this for a couple of years. I can think of many technical improvements that could and eventually should be made, but this looks like the right way to start. That it’s based on open platforms will only speed its evolution. In a generation, the term base-station may well be gone from the wireless vocabulary.

  4. Hopefully, Meraki has a better business model and doesn’t get into vaporware FON ($22M joke!)

  5. This is good, but a couple of things I notice from the Meraki Mini spec sheet:

    1) 60mw transmitter, 2dBi antenna

    That’s not terrible, but perhaps a little anemic for a decent sized mesh. Being bright kids from MIT, I would have preferred to see a slightly more serious internal antenna (maybe an 8-11dBi), and some intelligent backoff software that would dial down the transmitter power if there were a lot of nearby Meraki nodes. That way, you’d be able to extend coverage (and have nodes in less populated areas propagate their signal a little further), and not step on too many toes in crowded apartment blocks.

  6. The Meraki mini antenna connector seems not to be the common RP-SMA type. Why not? Majority of upgrade Wifi antenna are of RP-SMA type.

  7. Apologies. Just went to see meraki mini specs. Great. Antenna is RP-SMA type.

  8. Would be nice if they could fit olsrd in there

  9. Chuck Fletcher Thursday, August 17, 2006

    I just got some Meraki routers and wrote up a little post about the experience.
    http://www.chuckfletcher.com/?p=28

    Chuck

  10. dailywireless.org » Open Source Routers Wednesday, March 28, 2007

    [...] Katie Fehrenbacher of GigOm says series of open source projects are tackling high-end switches and wireless networking. She says Vyatta and Digium have based their entire business model on open source software. Digium is the original creator and primary developer of Asterisk, the industry’s first open source PBX Meraki Networks, a Mountain View, Calif.-based startup is building a business off of hardware and software based on MIT’s Roofnet project. The Roofnet Project was previously funded by MIT’s Project Oxygen and NTT DoCoMo. Meraki also consults on mesh-networking related issues for the fabled $100 laptop prototype project. The first offering from the company will likely hit the shelves this fall, and is called the Meraki Mini, which is a $49 wireless 802.11b/g router that allows users to build a wireless mesh network or extend the range of a municipal network. [...]

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